Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

if my mom could leap

My mom wished that her birthday was today, the 29th of February. She always said it would be so great to only count every four years. But, she was born a day too early, yesterday.

I was thinking about her today as I drove a little wine delivery tour for mickey. My trip took me 300 kilometers south to the province of Baden Wurtemberg...and I think it was the first time that I have been there. Once off the autobahn I drove another hour, high up into the hills, beautiful hills, with quaint little towns amidst empty fields patched with thick snow, lined by forest. I was high up, so high that for over two hours I was out of handy (cell phone) range. I thought that only happens in Saskatchewan.

I stopped in Bingen to have a coffee. Yup, there are two Bingens in Germany. And I, with mickey’s wine truck spewing the words ‘Bingen am Rhein’ on every side, thought it was kind of funny to be puttering through there…in Bingen am…? It is also a very nice Bingen, I must say. Small, hilly, with a mill churning water from a fast-flowing brook ,right through the middle of town. The people I encountered were chubby and smiley, very friendly, and spoke with thick, southern accents. Maybe I could say, almost Bavarian-sounding (to my ears, anyways). I liked it. And them.

They bought a lot of Rhein wine, and so maybe I’ll be back there again. But, then again, maybe not. Great guy has been encouraging me to break out on my own and do more work-related things which I actually enjoy. I’m guessing that starting to drink Mickey’s wine at 4:45pm, with Mickey being the one who’s driving me to drink, is a strong sign that maybe I should be pursuing other endeavours (that was just the one day…at 4:45pm, just so you know).

I haven’t introduced you to Ms. Potter yet…oh, I will. It could be that you’ll be hearing a lot about her in the near future. There is an opportunity which has presented itself and I might just jump at it. Hmm…I’m still thinking.

One last thought: it seems whenever I’m driving hours on end, on a Mickey tour, I hear ‘para, para, paradise…’ come on the radio. Then, for the entire day, it lives in my head. Sometimes, when I’m in an especially pathetic, self-pitying mood, I think it applies to me, but today I thought of my mom….the teenage girl who wrote a novel only to have her father call her a whore and burn it. Man, do I ever wish I could get my hands on that book! To be fair, my mother was a drama queen, and so that story might not be completely accurate. All I know, is that my brother and I were terrified of that man, so maybe it was true. Either way, thank you Coldplay, for interesting, and yet irritatingly-catchy lyrics.

‘When she was just a girl, she expected the world, but it flew away from her reach, so she ran away in her sleep. And dreamed of para-para-paradise every time she closed her eyes. Life goes on. It gets so heavy. The wheel breaks the butterfly. Every tear, a waterfall. In the stormy night, she closed her eyes. Away she flied. She dreamed of para-para-paradise. And so lying underneath those stormy skies she’d say, ‘oh, I know the sun must set to rise’

A happy P.S: great guy and I are heading out tonight for a leaping good dinner at a new-for-me small, strauss wirtschaft (a vineyard family’s restaurant). I want to celebrate a day that only happens every four years…why not?
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

love and fools

Is it a coincidence that the holiday for fools and the holiday for lovers are at the same time of year?

Today is the end of carneval, here on the west side of the Rhein. It has been a month of craziness, lots of partying, and many people running around the streets dressed foolishly. I was part of that group last Thursday, for the Alt Weiber Fastnacht (old maids carnival). I went with some fun mädels (young-at-heart- women) led by minnie.

The silliness started at 11am I, dressed up in my fave pink wig and a crazy dress, had to stop first at the bank before meeting up with the others. On the street, people started yelling, ‘hello! hello!’. I thought, ‘well, isn’t that friendly’. So, I returned the hellos. After about the 5th or 6th person it finally clicked that they weren’t saying ‘hello’, but rather ‘Helau!’ the hearty greeting of carnival here. What a fool.

I arrived at the café only to find that the mädels were accidentally all wearing the same black sheep costume. Sheep costumes are very popular, and I have absolutely no idea why. I began to think where I could possibly find some sort of shepherd’s staff, you know then I could be their foolish-looking shepherdess. To no avail. In the end though, nobody really cares what you look like, cause they are just focusing on not falling over.

It all starts with the number ‘11’ here. Back in the early 1800’s, Napoleon’s cry for ‘Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité - "equality, liberty, fraternity" reached the west side of the Rhein. The citizens here were finally able to enjoy freedom of speech and expression under French rule. After Napoleon’s defeat however, the conservative German returned everything back to normal...for most of the year. Using the number ‘11’, as inspiration for everything carneval-related, taken from the first letter of each of Napoleon’s famous words, in German spelling the word for ‘11’-elf, the citizens ‘secretly’ formed the council of fools, 11 elected men who set the carneval calendar and plan all the crazy fools balls and parades. They use this time, disguised in costume, to ‘rebel’ against the regime; to say and do whatever they feel like, making fun of politicians and clergy, and each other. Where the cry ‘Helau!’ comes from, nobody really seems to know.

In honour of Valentine’s day, which I happened to cruise over, here are 11 ways ‘to love’ in 2 words:

1) dig deep
2) keep creating
3) make something
4) laugh together
5) be kind
6) smile often
7) be strong
8) and bend
9) give/take
10) count blessings
11) say thank you (sorry, that’s three...but it might also be the most important)

plus 1 foolishly simple, yet profoundly great quote:

‘true happiness is sustainable delight in the beautiful moments of ordinary life.’
-Martha Beck.

go forth and love, you fools!
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Monday, February 13, 2012

to rock or not to rock

Okay, so I expected a little too much from said party. Or, is it that I let myself get too affected by what others say to me…by the ‘bad’ news that I hear. Take Whitney Houston’s death for example. I have been thinking about it’s suddenness since Dora stepped through our door yesterday morning and said ‘Whitney Houston ist gestorben’.

Why am I so impacted by the negative things others do in their lives…by the seedy, dark, lonely, secretive, destructive? All of the things which I panic about possibly experiencing, or in some cases, experiencing again, in my own life and relationship. Maybe, that’s it. I forecast it all onto my life…and it scares me.

So, as great guy and I arrived at rock’n roller’s chaulk-a-block (for all those Don McSweeney fans), packed 50th birthday party on Friday night, I immediately received some not-so-great info from one of my friends…and it killed my party mood. Before that, as we were getting ready, great guy and I had been blasting George Michael, dancing around the stellwerk (well, I was dancing) and we were having a great pre-party time. This specific news doesn’t even have anything to do with me, but ‘wow’ I could not stop worrying about it, thinking about it, until poor Whitney took it’s place in my head on Sunday.

Great guy and I did manage to enjoy the shit-shaking tunes and all the tasty food which julchen made at the party. The guests bobbed along to the music in the still-being-renovated empty flat in great guy’s haus. We had some ‘champagne’ and snuggled close among the very varied rockers, who we mostly didn’t know.

The weekend’s reveling carried on with a visit from Mickey and Minnie on Saturday night. The evening ended with Mickey running across the river at midnight, chasing an angry swan, until he wiped out on the ice. We watched from our side, ready to call someone (who?) if he fell through the ice. He had brought with him some new wine, which is being bottled this week, and he seems to be very, very impressed with the new batch. He wasn’t spitting it out.

Sometime during the evening Mickey came up with a new word, ‘abgerockt’, which I think means ‘danced out, so tired from rocking that you can’t rock anymore’. Somehow this word reminds me of Friday night. I think I need to focus on the things that I can control, and how I impact a situation positively or negatively, and not worry so much about what others are doing.

Wishing rock’n roller another rocking 50 years…and hope he isn’t or won’t be abgerockt soon.
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

there's a rock'n roll'n birthday happening tomorrow

I'm waiting.

Something big is happening tomorrow.

Rock'n roller is turning the big 5-0. And, he's throwing a party.

He's been prepping the vacant, still-unfinished flat in the haus. He's laid old, persian rugs, set up stools and armchairs, and plugged in funky, living room lamps.

Thankfully great guy just finished the floor heating so that the 100 invited rockers won't freeze and die. The cold here has tested our nerves...not that it's so cold comparatively. But, when pelletti decides to take a break whenever the temperature goes below -15...the tenants are not happy. I have been feeding him 17 bags of pellets at 7:30 every second morning, and he's still not happy. And, then there's the car... Great guy's great old land rover is more of a warm-weather lover. Why do I have 18 jobs, all of which I need to take the car too? Especially in this land of trains!

Oh well, it's Friday soon. And our place will be heating up with the sound of ageing rockers partying till the sun comes up...or at least till the rainy cold mist of the next day appears. I'm excited. Maybe I'll wear a costume and turn it into my very own Karneval party. Rock'n roller would probably just think my outfit is very rock'n roll.

Till the weekend...
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

die Boot and dead plants

I am a plant-killer. Plants, lawns, you name it, it’s dead. And, the worst is that it’s not my foliage I’m killing, it’s the Father’s and maid marion’s (or I should say ‘frau marion’ as a result of their fall nuptials). Great guy pointed the irony out to me. In September when they went away for a week, she gave me a list with exact quantities of water I needed to give each outdoor bush, tree and plant. I railed against that list, telling great guy, ‘how stupid does she think I am that I can’t water some bushes properly!’ So, I just watered as the spirit led me. It turns out that nothing much can die in just one week….but, after a few months, that’s a different story.

Now, it has been 3 months since the pair fled the -3 degree winter here, for Spain, and the leaves are dropping like flies all over their house. I am now in full-force rescue mode, trying to bring these huge plants back to life before the travelers return, with tender loving care and waaaay less water. You see, I tend to over-compensate, just like when I cook. At least with cooking too much food, you have a few days’ worth of left-overs (love that!), but too much water for plants is not good, especially when they have these weird leaves which gorge out totally and fall over with their own weight. Bad.

I seem to manage one plant okay. Great guy and I have one plant in our little house and it seems to still be alive. Back in Canada, I managed to keep a fern alive for 3 years (although it was touch and go at times). I’m actually much better with animals.

Yesterday, we had 2 dogs over for supper, Nero and Emma. Their owners came along too; it would’ve been rude to leave them at home. Our little house is very warm (great guy likes to keep the temperature at a comfy, sauna-like 40 degrees (celsius) and with floor heating even a rhodesian ridgeback starts sweating. But, man was it cute to have 2 big dogs in our little place. Come to think of it, I did give them a lot of water too.

We chowed down on heaping plates of mussels, baguette and salad, the idea inspired by our recent visit to Dusseldorf’s old city. Great guy and I were in this beautiful Rhein city last week for die Boot – one of the largest boat shows in the world.

We viewed mega yachts, elegant houseboats, old wooden sailboats, a huge catamaran owned by Audi, and best of all, a seabob. I really, really want a seabob…and not just because it reminds me of my very dear friend. But, they look like so much fun to ride. Or, I guess you would say that you hang on to them, not ride them. It’s a little hand-held machine which propels you super fast through the water. You can steer it, so that you can dive and jump, or just cruise really fast through the water. Rhein-bobbing…a new sport? Fun.

Later in the altstadt, after a great dinner of mussels at Zum Schiffchen (built in 1628), we ended up at a brewery right out of the middle ages, called ‘dat leckere Dröppke’. Plank floors, wooden beer kegs for tables, and the din of hundreds of happy beer drinkers, being served by beer-bellied happy old men. I felt like I was in a robinhood or pride and prejudice movie. I will definitely visit Dusseldorf again soon. I know that it is a dynamic city, and being one of the hardest hit during WWII, there is a lot of story there to explore.

January was an experience-packed month for me, and one I’m grateful for. Except for missing my brother and his little family like a hole in my heart, the month was beautiful. Great guy was at home the past five weeks, because he switched jobs. It was so nice spending more time together at home, relaxed, calm, happy. We ate breakfast together most mornings, then I would go to work and he would work on his baustelle projects (z.b. he built a chimney, re-covered our driveway, cleared a new parkspace, and put in the floor heating in the haus apartment he’s renovating), then he’d make some lunch for us, and I would head out again. He started his workout program at the gym, building up his ‘mukis’ (as some Germans call them) and I’m trying to run again when it isn’t raining. All in all, a healthy start to the year for our body and soul…good thing great guy’s not a plant.

Wishing you also a healthy, happy, loving February.

P.S. Great guy has started called me ‘honeyle’, which I just have to say is the cutest sounding thing.
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